Choosing a Marketing Agency in 2021
FINDING THE PERFECT AGENCY FOR YOUR BUSINESS
Finding a marketing agency that fits your company isn’t always a simple task. With thousands to choose from and a wide range of services and specialties among them, choosing an agency can be a stressful decision for business owners. That’s why we put together this guide with everything you need to know to find the perfect marketing agency for your business.
We're True Co. Marketing, a full-service agency in Lancaster, PA and in our guide we cover:
- Why You Should Engage an Agency
- What to Expect When Shopping for an Agency
- What to Look For in a Marketing Agency
WHY YOU SHOULD ENGAGE A MARKETING AGENCY
When it comes to ways to market your business in 2021, there are plenty of options available to you. From old standbys like print and radio to popular digital methods like SEO or PPC and emerging avenues like augmented reality, companies can reach their audience in a multitude of ways.
As marketing automation software evolves, effective marketing becomes more accessible to those outside of the industry. Business owners no longer need an agency or in house marketing department to get their products or services in front of customers. But, while it may be tempting for business owners to DIY their marketing strategy, many still find hiring an outside marketing agency worthwhile.
Even with the help of new technology, marketing requires specialized knowledge and education that takes time to acquire and must be continuously updated. Creating and executing the marketing strategies themselves also requires a significant investment of time and energy. By engaging an agency, businesses can benefit from knowledgeable and experienced experts, prevent their own staff from becoming overburdened, and free themselves to continue doing what they do best: serve their customers.
WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN SHOPPING FOR AN AGENCY
DIFFERENT TYPES OF AGENCIES
Understanding the different types of marketing agencies out there is an important first step when it comes to choosing one for your company. There are literally thousands of agencies to choose from so being able to differentiate them from one another is key. Here are a few ways todo that:
NICHE VS. FULL-SERVICE
Full-service digital marketing agencies can handle all aspects of your marketing strategy while niche agencies specialize in one specific area. There are pros and cons to both.
Niche agencies may offer a deeper expertise in specific areas but can’t help you look at the big picture. This can lead to juggling multiple agency relationships in order to cover all of your marketing needs.
Full-service agency detractors insist they can’t possibly do everything well. As a full-service agency ourselves, we’d argue that’s not the case, although it is certainly one of the challenges of building a successful full-service agency.
Since the nature of marketing is one of near-constant change, a full-service agency that can incorporate emerging trends into an ongoing strategy is the best choice for a long-term relationship like a retainer. For one-off projects in specialty areas that are especially hard to master (animated explainer videos, for example), niche agencies can still play a crucial role in your strategy.
LOCAL VS. NATIONAL
Another key difference among agencies comes down to location and audience. Small to medium-sized businesses may prefer a local agency that intimately understands their regional audience and can connect them with local resources.
Enterprise businesses or those targeting a national or international audience may prefer to work with agencies that serve a broader audience themselves. While this offers businesses a wider selection to choose from than sticking with a local agency, it may come with trade-offs like less accessibility and higher prices.
YOUNG VS. ESTABLISHED
Experienced agencies may seem like an obvious choice but marketing is one area where inexperience can work in your favor. That’s not to say you should trust anyone that hangs out a marketing shingle but don’t write an agency off for being young.
Agencies that are still trying to make a name for themselves will be hungry and attentive in a way that can benefit their clients. They are also unburdened by routines and habits, willing to try new things and explore the latest strategies.
While an agency’s age and experience should be taken into consideration, by itself it’s not a clear-cut indicator of whether an agency is right for you. It should be weighed alongside other factors like social proof (reviews, testimonials, etc), examples of past work (portfolios or case studies), and your own overall impression, to get a complete picture of the agency’s abilities.
HOW AGENCIES WORK
Every marketing agency packages their services differently. Generally, these packages fall into one of the following three categories: projects, campaigns, and retainers. Projects are one-off agreements that generally focus on a specific piece of the business’s marketing arsenal (ex. its website). Campaigns use a coordinated approach to target a specific goal over a predetermined time period. Retainers are recurring services that execute a long-term strategy.
Projects and campaigns are a great way to try out a new agency before committing to a long-term relationship. They’re also a smart choice if you’re utilizing a niche agency and don’t foresee needing their specialized skills on an ongoing basis.
But when it comes to the best use of your marketing dollars, retainers come out ahead. The nature of retainers mean the agency can offer lower rates per service than with other packages. Retainers also allow for a deeper understanding of the client’s business, more opportunities for data gathering, and easy scalability if the client’s needs change.
BEFORE YOU SIGN
After you’ve narrowed the options down to a handful of agencies, it’s time to set up some consultations. You’ll meet with each agency to go over what you’re looking for and learn more about how the agency works. Then the agency will go back and formulate a proposal for you based on your conversation.
Once you have your proposals in hand, you can choose the agency that feels like the best fit and then all that’s left is to sign the contract and work can begin.
AFTER YOU SIGN
Now the agency can get to work. Their first step is discovery and research. They’ll dive deeper into the specifics of your brand and gather the information they’ll need to execute the proposal. This is the point in the process when the agency and client typically have the most interaction so clear lines of communication are key.
Once, they have the information they need, the agency’s team will get started on the actual execution of your project or strategy. Because this part mostly takes place behind-the-scenes, it can be a bit nerve-racking for the client. It may feel like nothing is happening when, actually, the team just has their heads down and are working hard to bring your strategy to life.
Once the team’s work is complete they’ll show you the final product and make any requested changes based on your feedback. If it’s an ongoing campaign or retainer, they’ll continue their work and monitor the data it’s generating, while checking in periodically to update you on the progress.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN AN AGENCY
THEY SUIT YOUR NEEDS
Having an idea of your primary marketing goals will help you narrow down your search for theperfect agency. Are you looking for help with one specific area of marketing, like ecommerce? Or is your business part of a highly specialized industry like healthcare or legal services? If so, youmay want an agency that focuses solely on the niche you’re looking for. If your needs are broad or you expect they’ll change over time, a full-service agency may be the smarter choice.
For businesses with a local focus, like home service contractors, a locally based agency would have an intimate understanding of your audience and competition. The ability to ask friends or acquaintances about their own experiences with an agency can be another benefit to staying local.
But if 2020 taught us anything, it’s that businesses can do amazing things without ever meeting face to face. Thanks to virtual connections like Zoom, there’s no reason to allow geography to prevent you from working with an agency you’re interested in.
THEY COMMUNICATE CLEARLY
Communication sets the tone for any client-agency relationship. A good agency prioritizes clear communication. Not only because of its impact on client satisfaction but also because, without it, an agency can’t fully understand their client’s business or market it effectively.
Although it’s natural for communication styles to vary, the important thing is that nothing stands in the way of mutual understanding. Does the agency clearly outline their process for you? Are they quick to get back to you when you have questions? Do they meet their deadlines and communicate if issues or delays arise?
THEY WANT TO COLLABORATE WITH YOU
A good client-agency relationship should be collaborative. While you’ll be relying on the agency for their marketing expertise, you still bring a lot of valuable knowledge to the table. After all, no one knows your business better than you. A great agency recognizes that and will act as an ally or teammate, rather than an authority.
THEY'RE ENTHUSIASTIC BUT REALISTIC
You want the agency you work with to be confident in their strategy for your business but guarantees of outlandish growth or even definitive results should be a red flag. Marketing is unpredictable and requires experimentation. Any marketer whose promises seem too good to be true is either naive to that fact or unscrupulous. In either case, they’re not the right agency for you.
Ultimately, there are many factors to consider when choosing an agency. Each one should be weighted differently depending on the unique needs of your business. Many companies try several agencies before finding the perfect fit. By considering the factors we’ve mentioned, you’ll have an easier time finding the agency that’s right for you.